Cover Story - Outlook 2010: The Future of the Industry
Rubin and Norris note that publishers are beginning to respond to Amazon's increasing influence by thinking more carefully about how to manage e-book releases. Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins Publishers recently announced they each would release the e-book versions of some new titles up to several months following the books' print releases, while Macmillan announced it will release some books in a limited-edition, enhanced e-book format featuring interviews and commentary simultaneous to the print books' release, to be replaced by a standard e-book after 90 days. Macmillan also will delay the release of some best-sellers' e-book versions.
Despite these efforts to "take a stand" against deeply discounted prices for e-books, "Market forces will ultimately determine the price, based upon the devices and the consumers," Norris says.
According to Rubin, at stake in these battles over distribution and pricing is nothing less than the publisher's role in a digital future. "Traditionally," he says, "it was, 'We give you our brand, we give you our marketing power, we promote you, we set up these tours, we get you on these talk shows.' But these days, that's not so important. These days, even writers who are working with [major publishers] have to set up Facebook accounts, they have to go on Twitter, they have to set up a blog. At the end of the day, [the publishers] are taking their typical cut … and the writers are saying, 'What's in it for me?'"
"The traditional supply chain model is blown up in the e-world," says Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services at Bowker. "Back in the good, old days, you had publishers publishing books, you had retailers selling books, and you had printers printing books. Now, you have retailers and e-tailers that are device manufacturers, you've got distributors that are also content platform providers, you've got mobile companies that want a slice of the pie, and so it really causes some interesting flux in the market.